Our planet is the home of numerous splendid wildlife, which astounds with its rich diversity. Unfortunately, animals are often subjected to severe cruelty by humans.
One of these majestic creatures, an elephant nicknamed Pretty Boy, had been walking around with a gunshot wound on his forehead for a few weeks, back in June 2016, in Zimbabwe.
The elephant was 25 years old at the time and had been shot, so he asked for help.
As soon as veterinarians from Animal and Wildlife Area Research and Rehabilitation Trust (AWARE), a wildlife conservation organization in Zimbabwe, heard about his injury, they arrived at Mana Pools National Park.
Usually, elephants tend to stay away when injured, but this one surprised them and approached them first. Half an hour after veterinarians Dr. Keith Dutlow and Dr. Lisa Marabini arrived, the elephant went right up to their car.
He was extremely gentle and relaxed, showed no signs of aggression, so the vets managed to check the hole into his forehead.
“Pretty Boy was then tranquilized and taken in for an x-ray which showed that there was a deformed bullet lodged inside his head. He was likely shot at several centimeters too high for a “kill shot”, and the bullet glanced off his skull causing a depression fracture of the bones in his sinuses. The bullet is lodged under his skin some 5 cm away from the wound, but because of the difficulty of taking several Xray angles on a skull that big, it could not be sufficiently triangulated to definitively locate it.”
Dr. Lisa Marabini, director of AWARE, explained that “bullets are usually sterile when they penetrate tissue as they generate so much heat, so if they don’t hit a vital structure they can often be left.”
This was the case with Pretty Boy. Yet, his wound was infected, so she added that they needed to “ remove the dead pieces of the bone so that the body could continue to heal the infection.”
She believed that the shooter aimed for his heart, but missed, judging by an abscess on his shoulder from another bullet:
“We think he was shot outside the park and came into the park for refuge. Whether it was a poacher or a hunt gone wrong, we can only speculate.”
They also discovered another old scar near the spine, meaning that he was shot in the past too. Yet, even though people had treated him so badly, Pretty boy remained gentle and loving.
Marabini added that “he literally emanated serenity” and “there were no aggressive vibes coming from him whatsoever.”
While removing the bullet, the vets saw grey pus oozing out of the wound, something they’d never seen before. Yet, they eventually cleaned and flushed the wound, and gave the elephant ultra-long acting antibiotics and parasiticides.
He then lay his head against a tree and dozed for half an hour. The next day, Pretty boy was much happier and relaxed!
Marabini explained that he needed time to heal, but he was lucky this time, and survived. The elephant also underwent shoulder surgery.
Poachers kill elephants for their ivory, and these majestic animals in Mana Pools National Park have long been their targets, as there are hunting areas near the park.